By Stephen Lwetutte
LONDON-UNITED KINGDOM/NEWSDAY: And you must do so immediately by rescinding, recanting and removing the justifications, excuses and rewards previously made in the context of the numerous human rights violations your regime has presided over for over 35 years now. All culprits and suspects must promptly be pursued, with all victims of these violations also being offered adequate remedies according to the law.
It is unclear what exactly prompted your Saturday 14 August 2021 televised address to the nation, but it unexpectedly dwelled on the thorny issue of human rights abuses by your security forces. It had been announced well in advance with the theme touching on security rather than human rights matters, even though the two issues are organically linked.
That evening, and to your credit, you made a public statement how torture, ill-treatment, illegal detention and extrajudicial executions are against the law, and you even demonstrated unacceptable conduct in two video clips showed during your address. You did the same earlier this year with regard to indiscriminate shootings by your security forces during the November 2020 national demonstrations against the arrest of Hon Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, who is now believed have won the January 2021 Presidential elections. No outcome of the reported investigations into those grave violations are known to have been made public, beyond your promises, which you repeated on Saturday during your address to the nation.
In this column in Newsday.co.ug of 19 July 2021 entitled “The indelible scars on Ugandans on Museveni’s Watch_” l advised you to “come out unequivocally on the issues of extrajudicial executions and torture to state publicly that extrajudicial executions and torture would no longer be tolerated and that any culprits identified regardless of rank and status would be held to account according to the law.” l was therefore gratified to see you do exactly that in your address dedicated to the issue of human rights in Uganda.
Yet you have previously explicitly and implicitly condoned these egregious violations in public, which raises suspicions that your latest public statements denouncing these human rights abuses were made under pressure to assuage the strength of feelings of the public and the international community about your atrocious human rights record, now believed to be the worst of any post-independence Ugandan leader.
To allay such suspicions, l would like further to advise you to take immediate action to ensure that, far from rewarding them like in the case of General Elwelu who was promoted after the Kasese massacres, all culprits and suspects for human rights abuses are forthwith brought to book in transparent, impartial, competent and thorough processes in line with the law and international standards.
You should withdraw and apologise for all the public statements you have made justifying torture, ill-treatment and extrajudicial executions of people. You should also recall and cancel all rewards, promotions and appointments of the culprits and suspects in these crimes. Immediate steps must be taken to effect due remedies to the victims of the abuses, including those already determined by the courts and other competent tribunals and authorities.
In doing so Mr President, you will not be doing anyone else a favour than yourself. Even though you have previously stated that you are not anyone’s servant but only a volunteer, you know that you go out on the stump and campaign trails during the election campaigns not as a volunteer, but as a candidate with a manifesto to serve Ugandans. Ugandans do not go out to the polls to vote in a volunteer President – the law is clear on that, volunteers do not enjoy the kind of state emoluments and benefits that you do.
By upholding the constitutional human rights provisions, you will only be doing the job for which you were elected, your arrogance notwithstanding. I do not guarantee you success in redeeming your image and salvaging your legacy in these dying moments of your tenure, but doing nothing should not be an option. Your Saturday 14 August 2021 statements are a good start and you would do well to follow them up promptly with concrete actions along the lines that l have suggested to you or any other appropriate way to ensure you deal with the problem of impunity in this country.
If you fail to do so now, not only would history judge you extremely harshly, you and all the culprits will be held accountable later under processes in which you would not enjoy the level of constitutional influence and prerogatives that may be available to you today. Your expeditious action and reaction by way of a follow up on your Saturday 14 August 2021 national address on the state of human rights in Uganda is therefore called for. Forewarned is forearmed.
The writer is a Multilingual Human Rights Practitioner, formerly at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London for over 20 years and now Legal and Human Rights Consultant.
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